Saturday, January 03, 2004

In Which Clothes Unmake The Woman

I realized yesterday that I am having a pajama crisis.

I was undressing for bed. My husband was in the bedroom as I was doing this, which prompted me to look at myself through his eyes.

There I was in my Saddam Hussein hairdo and my spiffy Desalvo neck brace, wearing a shirt I'd inherited from my son, a black, K-mart boy's hooded sweatshirt the front of which was encrusted in several dinners, and, the coup de resistance, my pink pajama pants. Ancient elastic-waist pull-ons. Made of some vile synthetic knit. Fraying. Both stretched to bagginess AND shrunken to about six inches above my ankles. They were an Xmas present from my mother probably over a decade ago. There's a matching pajama shirt somewhere, I think. But I usually wear T shirts. Crappy ones. Last night I was also sporting two pairs of socks and my old, scuffy blue slippers. I'm sure an expanse of unshaven leg was visible between where fraying pink left off and double socks began.

I plunked down on the bed and began to whine.

DK, sweetie that he is, sat down beside me. "There, there," he said. Patted my hand. Told me I was perfectly fine. Reassured me all would be well. And that , if I wanted to, I could go on the internet (he knows how disinclined I am to shop in physical stores) and order some pajamas. "J.C. Penney," he advised, nodding sagely, pointing to his own handsome, dark blue pajamas. "That's where I got these !"

Being married is wonderful. I looked like some creature who'd just crawled out of the proverbial dark lagoon, and he was unfazed. Offered practical advice. Which I might even take.

Becoming vegan made my already excruciating fashion life even harder.

There are two things I wear that might not be strictly vegan. The first are my slippers. They're ancient, ordinary, and perfectly molded to my feet. They certainly antedate my switch -- about three years ago, or was it four ? -- from vegetarian to vegan. The other day I realized that the soles might be suede.

When I made the switch, I tossed out my leather shoes. No Imelda Marcos, I had one pair: boring but sturdy leather flats. My footwear life has been sheer hell since then, but I won't bore you with that.

I'm going to wear out the slippers.

The second is a red scarf that I started knitting and that my Lithuanian grandmother, impatient at my progress, ripped apart and re-knit when I was in the seventh grade. I suspect that it may contain wool. Nonetheless, because the scarf is a collaboration between me and my first and most brutal editor, I will continue to wear it. Hey, who knows ... maybe it's polyester !


Mary didn’t criticize the yarn,
its unconditional red, its Z- and S- twists,
nor how it knit and purled across the line
almost iambically. And I, lest I drop
a distich or two, kept my eyes
on my laborious, fledgling tricotage,
and on the looming acrostics in the wale.
So how could I have known her hands
chafed at their own work, itching to edit mine,
until they’d swooped and snatched the raggy swatch
that I’d been sweating over for a month
and bore it off ? Within two days
the piece was complete -- still red,
but half as wide, and ten times longer,
the enjambements perfect, the rhymes true,
the narrative seamless,
the ends fringed in epiphany.

Everything is revision. Even,
after 40 years, in the broken knit
of the red scarf I still wear,
the smell of her hands.


No comments: